Virginia horse racing fans got to celebrate a milestone event Wednesday February 7 as a ceremonial groundbreaking for the magnificent bronze Secretariat “Racing into History’ monument took place in Ashland on the outer edge of the Randolph Macon College campus. The ceremony took place under gorgeous sunny skies, and a large, appreciative crowd was on hand to celebrate Virginia’s greatest athlete — who also happens to be a hometown hero. Groundbreaking speakers included Kate Tweedy (daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery Tweedy), Jocelyn Russell (sculptor of the Secretariat statue), Steve Trivett (Mayor of Ashland) and Ann Martin (President of the Ashland Museum).
A formal statue dedication will take place on Saturday March 30 during Secretariat’s birthday celebration in Ashland. The grand event will feature vendors, food trucks, a choir, guest speakers, photo opportunities and a free showing of the movie Secretariat at the Ashland Theatre among other activities.
The Town of Ashland accepted the monument the evening prior where it took formal ownership of Big Red. Secretariat will be based on land at the college that has been leased to the Town. The small park — located the intersection of England Street & Railroad Avenue — will formally be named the Reynolds Family Plaza at Randolph Macon College.
“It was a wonderful ceremony and a very moving moment for me,” noted Tweedy. “It was the culmination of a long project and a lot of good work. Last night was a crowning achievement.”
“My grandfather began to fulfill his dream to breed and race good horses here in Virginia in 1936 and it took a long time before the greatest horse came around,” she continued. “My mom took over when he became ill and served as the steward of Secretariat. I can only imagine what Granddad and Mom would think about this project. I just know that they would be overwhelmingly proud and thrilled about today, and about what it will look like at the dedication ceremony.
At the end of her remarks, Tweedy announced that a sandy area underneath the statue will include sand mixed in from track surface materials at all three Triple Crown host tracks — Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont — in addition to sand from The Meadow, Big Red’s birthplace in Doswell. Sculptor Jocelyn Russell then took a pail of sand from The Meadow and spread it in with an existing sand mixture in front of the stage that was used for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Russell, who was emotional in discussing the scope of the sculpting process and the efforts from many that went into it, sent a blanket thank you to everyone involved and promised a longer speech at the dedication.
Mayor Trivett referenced what a big event this is for Ashland and that the Town was breaking ground in a special way. “This is not only the first monument of Secretariat in Hanover County, or the first monument of Secretariat in Central Virginia, but the first monument of Secretariat in the state of Virginia! We are extremely proud to continue Ashland’s longstanding ties with Chenery family and on March 30th, this park will be the center of the ‘Center of the Universe’.”